Life has dealt Cincinnatian Heather Ray quite a hand. At 12 years old in 1982, soft-tissue cancer in Ray’s left leg caused doctors to amputate at the hip. Cancer resurfaced in Ray’s life when she was diagnosed with breast cancer in 2006. A double mastectomy and eight months of treatment later, Ray was pronounced free of cancer.
Over the next two years, Ray faced divorce and lost her job as the vice president of a local company. The day after she lost her job in May 2008, she found lumps in her lymph nodes and her right femur. The cancer was back. Yet again, she beat the cancer with determination and positivity added to her treatments, but just six weeks after given a clean slate of health in March, Ray discovered pea-sized lumps in her neck and a palm-sized lump on her sternum. Tests showed that the cancer was back for round four.
Last Monday Ray found out that her bone and CAT scans came back cancer free. She defeated cancer yet again, but she will continue treatments, possibly for the rest of her life, Ray says. Despite her multiple bouts of cancer, Ray looks at herself as lucky.
"I am the luckiest person in the whole world, and yes, I was diagnosed with cancer, but it’s made me such a good person. I’m a better person," she says.
To add to that idea of luck, Ray was announced the winner of the Cincinnati.Com/Cincy Chic Breast Cancer Beauty Makeover Contest at Cincy Chic‘s Bras with Flair on the Square event last Wednesday. Ray’s pampering package included free products and services valued at $3,000 from Tuscany Spa-Salon, La Silhouette Lingerie and Soho Boutique, among other companies.
Cincinnati.Com received 70 nominations for the award, and after reading the 500-word essays, representatives from Cincinnati.Com and Cincy Chic narrowed the finalists to 10. Online readers were then given a week to vote for a winner.
Last Tuesday and Wednesday Ray took advantage of her winnings. From eyebrow waxing to a cut and color to a massage, Tuscany’s professionals worked their magic on Ray. The treatments, as they do with the majority of cancer survivors, have wreaked havoc on her complexion and hair. So the makeover is exactly what she needed, she says.
While Ray appreciated and enjoyed the entire pampering experience, her shorter haircut, enhanced with dimensional highlights serves as one of Ray’s favorite parts of the experience. "Considering I’ve lost half of it and it’s growing back in, my hair’s just kind of a mess from chemotherapy…. The time that they took to really look at my hair and decide what it needed to really give it some fullness was really, really what I needed," Ray says.
After receiving Tuscany’s salon and spa services, Ray visited La Silhouette for a professional bra fitting as well as a new bra. "They brought me all these bras, and we got the ‘perfect fit,’ as they say — very sexy," Ray says.
To complete her new look, Ray headed to Soho Boutique to be dressed for Cincy Chic‘s Bras with Flair on the Square fashion show that took place last Wednesday. While a pretty pink dress fitted Ray’s fancy, the dress didn’t quite fit her, so she and owner Amy Maynard accessorized a brown halter-top dress with a pink scarf.
After a full day of pampering, Ray headed to Fountain Square at 7:30 a.m. the following day to help support the fight for the cure for breast cancer. Along with other volunteers, Ray spent nearly her entire day promoting both Spin for the Cure that will take place Oct. 10 and Bras with Flair on the Square event.
While she continues cancer treatments as a single mother without a job, Ray works to make sure nobody else has to fight the same battle, and she lives by her own words: "Cancer’s not a choice. Fighting it is."
Photos courtesy of The Cincinnati Enquirer
Top left photo photgrapher: Gary Landers
Top right photo photographer: Ernest Coleman
Bottom photo photographer: Amanda Davidson